Aleixo Manuel da Costa
Fundacao Oriente | Broadway
2013. Pp 162. Hb. Rs 350
–Three volumes of this book have come out earlier. In our times, the work is likely to be under-appreciated. Mainly that is, because it is in a language most of us do not understand, and deals with a point in time almost all have forgotten.Yet, this is a useful book. Published posthumously, its author died in April 2000. Only when one checks it out closely, does its worth becomes apparent.
First some figures:
- The author has made an impressive collection of some 11,000 publications by Goans, written in a total of 14 languages.
- He has compiled the bibliographical and biographical data of over 2000 Goan writers, representing the period from 1702 to 1961.
Penha da Franca-born Aleixo da Costa joined the old Biblioteca Nacional Vasco da Gama (later the Central Library, and presently the Kishnadas Shama Central Library) in 1930. He became the Curator in 1949 and retired in 1967 at the age of 58.
His earlier three volumes were published back in 1997. Now, the fourth volume of his work has just reached the stands. It’s available at Broadway’s and other outlets.
In the earlier volume, Costa covers the period of 1702 to 1950. In this work, he touches on the years 1951 to 1961. From A to X (even if Y and Z are absent, there being no entries under these alphabets). The work, I understand, was put together by his son Amilcar Da Costa, based in Europe.
In this volume, Costa covers from ALA (the magazine of the Liceu Nacional Afonso de Albuquerque) till Xavier, Camilo (the maestro in Gregorian chant and composition of sacred music, from Macasana in Salcete). In between there are a whole lot of others.
Costa’s book meticulously collates the background details (in a thumbnail, word sketch) of each writer from Goa. It lists his or her writings, whether books or major articles. It also lists details of some journals and periodicals of the period.
Being closer to our times, it’s easier to appreciate the work of more names in this volume. This is not to suggest that the earlier volumes can be ignored; though, the problem there is that these were published by Fundacao Oriente in collaboration with a Macau-based institute. So the books are either difficult to come by in Goa, or costly. Or both.
There is an old-world charm about this book. It lists Jose Conceicao de Almeida, whom one realises is Dr. J.C. Almeida, the senior official whose tenure spanned both pre-1961 and post regimes. We learn about Belmira de Batista Almeida, a teacher from Britona, who after Liberation left for Portugal.
In between the Seminary publications, we also find featured Joseph Barros, the Uganda-born poet and litterateur Alfredo F Braganca, and Caxinata G Sinai Cacodcar (using the old style Portuguese-influenced spellings).
One comes across the work of Dr Fernando Jorge Colaco, and a souvenir of the Corjuem Union (published in Bombay) dating back to 1955 when the Corjuem Union Building was inaugurated there. It was incidentally printed at the Cordailbail Press in Mangalore — sometimes one has to go far to access technology.
One always wanted to know more about Antonio da Costa, the Jesuit author of the earlier much quoted ‘The Christianisation of the Goa Islands 1510-1567′. Costa solves the puzzle by talking about his Siolim links, his studies at Shembaganur and the University of Madras, studies in Spain, Rome, Poona, and his being the Director of the Heras Institute from 1967 to 1973. Of course, one still needs to know more, and there’s scope for a history of the book and the authors of Goa.
Covering times when the priests were the most educated persons around, one comes across references to a number of them. But then there are radicals too, like the Lourenco Marques (Maputo)-born Orlando da Costa, whose works on Goa are yet to be appreciated in Goa itself.
The work of authors such as Janardana Upendra Naique Counto of Priol (b 1903) gets remembered, as does the contribution by prominent presses of those days — such as Tipografia Rangel in Bastora. This listing made me want to read some of the texts which we now forget. For instance Filinto Cristo Dias’ ‘A Short History of Indo-Portuguese Literature’ (1984) and another on Portuguese vocables of Konkani origin (1976).
One didn’t realise that the 1932-born Agostinho Fernandes (author of the inadequately discussed Portuguese novel ‘Bodki’) was actually a cardiologist with a link to Quepem. Or that Jess Menino Fernandes’ Nirmonn Part I and Part II were published so far back!
Authors like J.A. Fernandes of Chorao remind us of the times and their different linguistic influences, through the title of their work, rendered by Costa as ‘Album Xembor Tiss Cantarancho Livro amcheam Podano. Ugdass dovortam Ghoddnarancho’.
Definitely names like Antonio Furtunato de Figueiredo (Maestro, and director of the earlier influential Academia de Musica) are well remembered by old timers and some of the younger generation, but others with a less known recall-value also have long lists of publications behind them too.
Without books like these, we are likely to all but forget ‘Free Goa’, the fortnightly edited for awhile by Tristao Braganca Cunha, and published from 172, Camp, Belgaum. Or the noted poet Joseph Vernon Furtado (son of Philip Furtado), who was getting published by Macmillan & Co, Calcutta in the 1950s.
There are other names worth recalling, people who deserve a tribute, and works which should not lie unread.
Doctor-freedom fighter Pundalica Gaitonde gets listed for his work, as does Narana Sinai Coissoro, advocate and deputy in the Portuguese national assembly. One wonders if copies of the Azad Gomantak Dal booklet on the ‘Goan Freedom Struggle at a Glance’ published in 1957 are still available to refer to today, and ditto for the 1955 souvenir of the Goan Institute, Nairobi, released on its 50th anniversary.
(Talking about the rarity of local print material, a friend just mentioned he might need to get a Goa-authored book all the way from a library in London!)
Francisco Xavier Filomeno da Conceicao Gomes Catao — everyone had longer names then — gets noted for his contributions in history, while Dr Esmina Gomes (wife of the late Dr JF Martins) comes in with a technical paper.
Jacome Gonsalves (a tribute from Divar); In Memoriam: Dada Vaidya; the Loiola Furtados (Leonor and Raul); Marcha da Fontainhas; Marcha da Santa Cruz; maestro Micael Martins, are names which would surely ring a bell to many who have not forgotten our past. We learn about Antonio Estanislau de Melo, originally from Saligao, who played a giant role in the world of Indian sports in the 20th century (including in building the Brabourne Stadium).
Paulo Miranda, the scientist, is listed. So are the noted editor Frank (Robert) Morais and his son Dom(nic Francis) Morais. Dr Pacheco de Figueiredo of the Escola Medica, and others like the scholar whose art evoked protests Dr Jose Pereira are prolific with their output as reflected in this book.
Given the hit-or-miss nature of such work, it’s a thankless job. One can never be sure that all the works you intended to have been covered.
For instance, one can find only three publications in the name of the prominent archivist Panduronga Sacaram Sinai (PSS) Pissurlencar, which seems too few. But then the tiatr-linked Lucasinho Ribeiro (described as a ‘dramaturgo’ in Portuguese) also features here. So do others like the 1894-born Rajaram Pundolica Sinai Quelcar (the doctor from Priol), Mons. Altino Ribeiro de Santana, and that prolific Prof Lucio Rodrigues (whose talk on Konkani song at a US university is available on the archive.org online archive).
One also gets a chance to encounter the titans of another generation, such as Leopoldo Francisco de Rocha, whose study on the confrarias of Goa keeps getting cited. Take a look at the work of Vassanta Porobo Tamba, Manohar Sinai Usgaoncar and Mons. Furtunato Viega Coutinho, though for the period under review.
There’s Carmo da Silva, Judite Beatriz Lobo de Sousa, and even Francisco Newton de Sousa (or, FN Souza, as we would know him). In words, the famed artist’s contributions include ‘Nirvana of a Maggot’, ‘Words and Lines’ and ‘The White Flag Revolution’.
Given the Goan reality, and our tendency to put down each other, it’s quite possible that this tome could be criticised at a view ‘of the past, from the past, and by the past’. That too, in a language we’ve quickly forgotten or lost, and focussing on a time when the best educated were priests, who then also dominated the process of creating ideas. Be that as it may, such a text is valuable, because it goes against the current tendency of dismissing the past as irrelevant to our present, which is a rather ahistorical position to say the least. Likewise, it makes up to some small extent for decades of neglect of the Goan written word in Portuguese.
All in all, a useful peep into the past. Definitely worth picking up a copy at Rs 350